Richters HerbLetter

Date: 97/09/18
1. Senna May Replace Cancer-Causing Chemical in Ex-Lax
2. New Treatment for Menopause Made from Red Clover
3. Herbal ‘FenPhen’ Alternatives Causing Concerns
4. Sage May Help Treat Alzheimer’s Disease
5. Green Tea Touted as Better Antioxidant Than Vitamins E, C and Red Wine
6. Genital Herbs Associated with Increased Cervical Cancer in Zimbabwe
7. Herb Business News

1. Senna May Replace Cancer-Causing Chemical in Ex-Lax
By Conrad Richter

GOODWOOD, August 30 -- An Associated Press story said that the popular over-the-counter laxative drug, Ex-Lax, was pulled from the shelves in the United States yesterday. The U.S. government has said that the products’s active ingredient, phenolphthalein, will be banned amid fears that it may promote cancer.

Laxatives containing phenolphthalein remain on the market in Canada, but Health Canada told companies selling them either to prove their safety or remove them from the market.

Novartis Consumer Health, maker of Ex-Lax, continues to believe that phenolphthalein is safe and effective. The company filed its response to Health Canada in July.

In the event that phenolphthalein is banned, Novartis plans to reformulate its Ex-Lax product with the laxative herb senna. Senna is derived from two closely related plants, Tinnevelly senna (Cassia angustifolia), grown in India, and Alexandran senna (Cassia senna), grown in the Sudan. Both have been used for centuries as safe and effective laxatives, but as with all laxatives, long term use can disrupt water and electrolyte balance. Long term use also causes laxatives to lose effectiveness over time.

2. New Treatment for Menopause Made from Red Clover
By Rada Rouse

BRISBANE, Sept 16, AAP - A new dietary supplement promising relief from menopausal symptoms has its genesis in the discovery in the 1950s that sheep feasting on clover had fertility problems.

"It was Australian scientists who really triggered the world to think abo the effect of plant oestrogens," researcher Graham Kelly said.

It is now known that the blood contains two types of oestrogen - steroida oestrogens made in the body, and non-steroidal oestrogens or isoflavone phytoestrogens, put in the body through food.

Dr Kelly is founder of Novogen Ltd, an Australian pharmaceutical developm company which has launched a new "natural" product into the $5 billion world menopause market.

The pill, Promensil, is made from isoflavones extracted from red clover.

Dr Kelly’s research was sparked after a report more than a decade ago tha British scientists had discovered phytoestrogens in the urine of vegetarian women.

The thinking behind Promensil is that isoflavones, although weak oestroge offset the decline in steroidal oestrogens as people age.

They are found in many of the world’s traditional diets - along with an absence of menopausal discomfort in women, and low rates of heart disease an cancer in both sexes.

Novogen built the world’s first commercial isoflavone extraction plant, a Wyong on the New South Wales central coast, and has pinpointed the most isoflavone-rich strain of red clover (Trifolium pratense) which it contracts growers to produce in the Riverina.

Promensil aims to provide isoflavones equivalent to that consumed in the diet of Asian and central American women, who do not suffer Western menopaus symptoms such as mood swings, sweatiness, and vaginal discomfort.

"Studies of the Mayan people in Mexico revealed that they do not even hav word for hot flushes," Dr Kelly said.

"Plant oestrogens have been in the diet since we were apes.

"The trouble with the Western diet is that we began substituting meat for legumes."

A diet rich in legumes such as chick peas, lentils and soya beans will provide a variety of isoflavones.

But red clover is the only plant in the world which contains four potent oestrogenic isoflavones, Dr Kelly said.

According to diet supplement manufacturer Blackmores Ltd, whose joint venture with Novogen was recently terminated, this does not mean it is ideal for menopausal women.

"People don’t eat clover," Blackmores technical director Philip Daffy sai

"Blackmores is comfortable selling a soy product because it is a known fo source.

"We have confidence in the safety of this level of isoflavones."

Blackmores has released a new diet supplement called PhytoLife Plus, containing soy and calcium, and PhytoLife soy powder designed to be added to cooking or sprinkled on cereal.

Soya is the richest dietary source of isoflavones. An intake of 40 to 60 of isoflavones a day is recommended to maximise oestrogenic benefits - and t represents a lot of tofu for an Australian palate.

Blackmores says that while a typical Australian diet contains around 5 mg day, a Japanese diet has at least 25 mg and up to 60 mg. Until recently, the Japanese, also, had no word for hot flushes.

Soy is gaining credence in the West as a way of compensating for declinin oestrogen brought about through ageing which is associated with heart diseas and osteoporosis.

While soy is known to lower total cholesterol levels, the red clover pill have been found to raise HDL or "good" cholesterol, Dr Kelly said.

Clinical trials of Promensil also found there was no detectable effect on the uterus.

Menopausal women were seeking out natural sources of oestrogen because synthetic preparations, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), had unwelcome side-effects like "breakthrough" bleeding because they stimulat the uterus.

While Novogen is forced to market Promensil in Australia as a dietary supplement, its eyes are firmly fixed on the international pharmaceutical market.

Blackmores was "more at the herbal end of the market" and so an amicable to a joint venture was negotiated, Novogen managing director Chris Naughton said recently.

Blackmores maintains the major difference is that it wants to stick with soy.

"We are both (now) completely free to commercialise the phytoestrogen mar in our own ways," managing director Marcus Blackmore said.

3. Herbal ‘FenPhen’ Alternatives Causing Concerns
Sept 16, Dow Jones [Excerpt] -- Among the most popular fenphen alternative is so-called herbal fenphen, a mixture that combines St. John’s Wort, a flowering plant, and ephedra, an ancient Chinese herb. St. John’s Wort mimics fenfluramine by acting on serotonin levels in the brain. Ephedra, a stimulant mimics phentermine, says Joseph DiBartolomeo, a spokesman with Nutri/System LP, a weight-loss chain in Horsham, Pa., that has been selling herbal fenphen since May 1996.

Some weight-loss centers have refused to recommend the herbal remedies, cit health concerns. Peter Vash, medical director at Lindora Inc., a privately he chain of 32 weight-loss centers in California, says going from fenphen to its herbal counterpart is like "going from the frying pain into the fire."

Dr. Vash says emergency rooms in Southern California have had admissions of patients in agitated states from ephedra, an amphetamine-like stimulant...

4. Sage May Help Treat Alzheimer’s Disease
SCARBOROUGH, England, Sept 15, Reuter -- Sage has properties which could helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, scientists said on Monday.

Researchers at King’s College in London found that a compound extracted from essential oil of the herb blocked the activity of an enzyme linked to th degenerative brain disease.

Blocking the enzyme stops the breakdown of one of the chemical messenger in the brain. Low levels of the chemical, acetyl choline, lead to the loss of short-term memory, the first sign of the illness.

"As long as 400 years ago, English herbalists were reporting that sage w good for improving the memory. Our research may explain why," Dr Peter Hought told a pharmacology conference.

Sage, which has also been proven to have anti-inflammatory and antioxida properties, may also be useful in other aspects of Alzheimer’s, he said.

But Houghton warned that it was too early to say whether eating large quantities of the herb would help to prevent the disease.

He said the most common type of sage used in cooking, salvia officinalis contains a compound called thujone which can be toxic in large quantities.

He used a different type of sage in his research which does not contain thujone.

Houghton said his team planned to carry out further research into sage o extracts and its compounds.

5. Green Tea Touted as Better Antioxidant Than Vitamins E, C and Red Wine
SIMI VALLEY, Calif., Sept. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Researchers at the Universi of Kansas have found new evidence confirming that a compound in a green tea supplement provides stronger damage protection of cells and their genetic material (DNA) than the well-known antioxidants vitamins E and C and the antioxidant compound in red wine.

Announced today at the American Chemical Society annual meeting, the firs side-by-side comparative antioxidant study led to an investigation of the protective power of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) against that of vitamins and C, in addition to red wine and other teas. EGCG is a member of the famil of chemicals known as polyphenols, antioxidant compounds which are found in green tea. EGCG and other green tea polyphenols work as antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants are compounds that attack the body’s free radicals, which cause cellular damage including DNA (genetic material) breakage.

The research provides further evidence of the ability of EGCG to protect against cellular damage. The research team used the supplement, Tegreen 97(T which, comprised of 97 percent polyphenols, has a 4-fold higher concentration EGCG than traditional green tea. The research was also the first of its kind use the Ames test, a widely used test for mutagenic agents, to determine the effectiveness of the green tea compound in the form of Tegreen in protecting against cellular damage.

"The antioxidants in tea are more effective than the vitamins that are usually construed to be antioxidants," said Dr. John Weisburger, senior membe American Health Foundation. He adds, "We need both but green tea is more effective."

Using the Ames test, EGCG was added to DNA samples challenged with peroxi a recognized powerful free radical. The research found EGCG to be a powerful antioxidant, offering 63 percent protection from DNA damage. The level of protection of DNA samples in the presence of Tegreen were significantly highe when compared with a control group of DNA without Tegreen. In a side-by-side comparison using equivalent concentrations, vitamin E was found to be much le protective against damaged cell growth than EGCG or Tegreen, while vitamin C showed almost no protective activity at the same concentration. Specifically EGCG was approximately 100 times more effective than vitamin C, 25 times more effective than vitamin E, and nearly twice as effective as red wine.

Bill McGlashan, president of Pharmanex, Inc., the company that manufactur Tegreen, called the study very promising. "This confirms that Tegreen offers one of the strongest levels of antioxidant protection. Tegreen is a natural extract, standardized to ensure the highest levels of polyphenols available i any dietary supplement on the market today," McGlashan said.

"Green teas may be different, however when you take a standardized supplement you know you are getting what you need," according to Georges M. Halpern, M.D., Ph.D., professor emeritus of medicine, University of Californi and antioxidant researcher.

Tegreen, like green tea, provides protection against the damage caused by cigarette smoke, pollution, stress and other toxins. Each capsule of Tegreen provides the equivalent of about 4 cups of traditionally brewed green tea, bu without the stimulating effects of excess caffeine. The polyphenol content o green tea is not known to be associated with any significant side effects or toxicity.

Green tea is widely consumed in East Asia and its health benefits have be demonstrated in China for thousands of years. In extensive epidemiological studies in Asia, totaling more than 100,000 people for study periods of up to years, daily consumption of four or more cups of a green tea beverage has bee associated with significant overall good health maintenance in subjects, even after adjustments are made for age, smoking and alcohol consumption.

While further study is needed, this research adds support to an increasin body of evidence that the polyphenols in green tea are strongly linked to protection against cellular damage...

6. Genital Herbs Associated with Increased Cervical Cancer in Zimbabwe
Sandra Nyaira

HARARE, Zimbabwe, Sept 19, PANA -- Five years ago, Euna Madziva of Nyamid village in Zvimba of Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland west province met several other women during a traditional beer brewing ceremony.

The women discussed new and old methods of how to increase their spouses’ sexual pleasures and appetites. The discussion fascinated Euna (24), then a daughter in-law in the village, that she could not resist trying out one of prescribed methods.

She was later given a herbal portion to insert, unknowingly exposing hers to the risk of developing cancer of the cervix which she now suffers from.

Euna is not alone in this predicament. Thousands of women, most of whom attribute the disease to witchcraft, suffer from this life threatening disea

A recent media workshop on youth and sexuality revealed that cancer of th cervix is now the biggest killer of women in Zimbabwe. Symptoms of the disea include severe pains in the pelvic area and changes in menstrual cycle.

Zimbabwe has a high incidence of cervical cancer but not all women recogn the disease. More than 5,000 cases are reported annually. But not much attention is being paid to cancer as the government focuses more attention o the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Statistics show that over 29 percent of the total cancer cases are report among blacks, followed by kaporsi sarcoma and skin cancer which is common am white women at 44 percent.

Health experts say half a million women world wide, the bulk of them in Africa, develop cervical cancer annually with more than 50 percent of them dying. Another type affecting Zimbabwean women is breast cancer which for to long has been viewed as a white woman’s disease.

Felicity Zawaira, a ministry of health and child welfare official, says cancer of the cervix has its origins in adolescent sexual behavior. She says the problem has worsened due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which is claiming an estimated 500 Zimbabweans weekly.

She adds that women in their early 20s are more affected by cervical canc Repeated infection from sexually transmitted diseases, lack of personal hygiene, chronic cervical infections, forceful intercourse and early motherh also increase the risk of contracting the disease.

"The seeds are sown during adolescence due to exposure of an immature cer to carcinogenic agents," adds Zawaira, who warns youths against early sexual activity.

"They also need to know that cancer of the cervix is treatable hence the need to promote health seeking behavior such as screening and that not all methods of contraception protect against sexually transmitted disease," she says.

Pap smear tests or screening for the cancer costs up to 40 zimdollars at clinics and hospitals while the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council charges nothing for poor women.

A seminar devoted to the disease recently blamed men for helping spread t cancer causing virus through multiple sexual partners.

Participants criticised the country’s health delivery system for blaming adolescents and women for contracting STDs, leading them to suffer in silenc due to embarrassment.

"We have a major challenge that is facing us today and if we are to prote women, we have to start with the adolescents.

"Older women should also seek health services earlier as it is painful an expensive to treat advanced cancer of the cervix through radiography," adds Buhle Ncube, technical director of the ZNFPC.

The use of genital herbs by women is however said to be on the increase, exposing them to potential dangers.

"Women must be discouraged from using herbs with obvious corrosive effect There really is need for controlled research on the practice and for clear guidelines addressing women’s reproductive health concerns," says Zawaira.

The Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association says all types of cancers can be treated easily and successfully if detected early.

"The advent of the AIDSs pandemic has seen the sharp increase in reported cancers hence the need for extensive educational campaigns," says Ncube.

Pastor Noah Pashapa of the Baptism Church and Priscilla Misihairambwi of Women and AIDS Support Network advocate the introduction of annual budgets t cater for the growing problem of cancer.

"The problem merits effective monitoring of trends and development and th need to assess groups that face the risk of contracting the disease cannot b over emphasised," says Misihairambwi.

7. Herb Business News
PharmaPrint: Phase II Study Begins on Saw Palmetto Drug

IRVINE, Calif., Sept 8, Dow Jones -- PharmaPrint Inc. (PPRT) began a phase multicenter study on its drug derived from the saw palmetto berry for symptom associated with benign prostate enlargement.

In a press release Monday, PharmaPrint said trial, which will be double-blinded and dose-ranging, will begin shortly at centers in San Diego; Waterbury, Conn.; Aventura, Fla.; and Milwaukee. The phase II study will invo about 50 patients and is designed to evaluate safety and optimal dosages.

If phase II results are positive, PharmaPrint intends to perform a phase II pivotal trial, designed to evaluate efficacy, involving about 150 patients.

Saw palmetto is a low-growing, prickly palm indigenous to the southeastern U.S.

The company submitted the saw palmetto investigational new drug application July 31.

PharmaPrint develops and manufactures patented pharmaceuticals derived from herbal products.

Nutraceutical Corp: To Market Essential Fatty Acid Product from Algae

COLUMBIA, Md., Sept 16, Business Wire -- Martek Biosciences Corporation (NASDAQ: MATK) of Columbia, MD, announced today that Nutraceutical Corporation will begin selling Neuromins(TM) DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid essential for brain and mental function, in retail outlets nationwide under its Solaray(r) brand. Nutraceutical Corp. is a leading U.S. natural products company and the fifth to bottle and market Martek’s microalgae-derived DHA in retail natural product stores...

"Nutraceutical is excited to be selling Neuromins(TM) DHA in the Solaray Brand," said Walt Jones, President of Nutraceutical Specialty Category. "Neuromins is the first non-fish oil source of DHA available on a commercial scale and Nutraceutical is pleased to be able to provide that long-awaited alternative to its customers." DHA is the primary structural fatty acid in th gray matter of the brain and retina of the eye. DHA has been shown in studi to be critical for mental and visual development in infants and proper neurological function throughout life. Low levels of DHA have been correlat with changes in disposition, memory loss, visual and other neurological disorders. However, the average American’s diet is low in DHA because of declining consumption of sources such as red meat, animal organs and eggs, a an increase in consumption of vegetable oils. Neuromins(TM) puts DHA back i the diet and returns DHA blood levels to the "normal" range.

Adequate dietary intake of DHA is particularly important for pregnant an nursing women. Infants rely on their mothers to supply DHA for the developi brain and eyes initially through the placenta and then through breast milk. However, DHA levels in the breast milk of U.S. women are among the lowest in the world as a result of low levels of DHA in the American diet. Due to its important role in infant mental and visual development, Martek’s DHA also ha been incorporated into infant formulas in Australia, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Infant formula containing DHA is not yet available in the Unit States.

Neuromins(TM) DHA is the world’s only commercially available vegetable source of DHA. Until Neuromins , the primary source of DHA nutritional supplements has been fish oils. However, many fish oils contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a fatty acid some trials suggest may suppress th immune system. In addition, certain fish oils may contain chemical pollutan and toxins. Martek’s Neuromins(TM) DHA is extracted under tightly controlle conditions from microalgae, the original source for fish, yielding a highly purified form of DHA.

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